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Table For Two, Please?

table set for two

Don’t you love it when you make it through an epic movie full of danger, twists and turns, and the perfect ending is on the other side waiting for you so you can look back and put all the prior pieces together?

The right people get together, the outcome, though different than you imagined, is as it should be.

The angst is removed.

Questions are answered.

Things begin to make sense.

And you’re glad you watched ’til the end.

You know what I’m talking about.

That’s where we’re at with Psalm 23 today.

This is my very favorite part!  

In. The. World.

Remember where you’ve been?

You just came through the “valley of the shadow of death” in verse four, where evil was lurking all around you in the mountains that surrounded your path.

But you knew the comfort of your Shepherd.  

Your Protector.

 Your Constant Companion.

You could “fear no evil” because He was with you.

You weren’t sure where you were headed and what was just past these mountains of difficulty and this valley of dark shadows. 

 Faith became intense and real life.

You learned to walk without seeing, trusting the eyes of your Shepherd.  Leaning on His sense of direction.  Believing that He knew the way through this blackness.

And just about the time that you became accustomed to this level of trust in your given situation, everything suddenly shifts.

Enter, verse 5:

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.

As you emerge with Jesus out of the dark valley that has tested your faith and changed you in the process, you see something in the distance.

People and things. People and things that you would normally be intimidated by.  Things that in the past had played with your emotions and had evoked fear and anxiety.  

Your enemies.

Wait. What?

On the other side of the valley, in the light of day, these enemies still exist?

That hardly seems fair after all you’ve been through, and you are just about to let Your Shepherd hear your thoughts on the matter.

But as you approach these familiar enemies, you see that they aren’t looking at you.  Each one of them is stopped in their tracks. They are all gathered around an intimate table for two set with all the food and drink and beauty you could imagine.

You’ve never seen anything like it.

And when you catch your breath and pinch yourself to make sure that it’s all real, it hits you.

This is way better than nibbling at green pastures.

This is a table set, it seems, not for a sheep, but for an honored friend.

A homecoming feast.

In the transformation that happened in that valley, you went to the next level of intimacy with your Shepherd.

You became His friend, and He became yours.

You learned to trust Him.

To listen to Him.

To depend on Him to get you through the darkness.

And now this!

“In the presence of your enemies” you take a seat at this glorious table.

The enemies are there but you are not afraid.  They have no place at this table.

They are just people and things that have been stripped of the power they once had over  you.

It’s just you and Jesus at this beautiful table.

Face to face, eye to eye.

Eating together, talking.

Laughing.

 Reminiscing about the valley and how far away it all seems now.

And you’re so very glad you didn’t give up.  That you trusted your Friend to the end of that path.

He did not disappoint.

He reaches over and fills your glass. He says something about the juice coming from a Vine, but says that’s a story for another day.  All you know is that it’s delicious.

You keep drinking and He keeps filling that cup.  You can’t keep up with the goodness and it spills all over the table.  

A glorious mess of love and mercy and grace. 

He gets up and reaches for something.  He walks behind your seat and begins to work some type of oil into your scalp.

An intoxicating fragrance that smells like blessing.

It is more than you could ever have imagined while you were in that dark valley.

Over. The. Top.

You can’t help it.  Your eyes close in thankfulness as you take it all in.

And you break out into song:

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.

The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. 

You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

(Psalm 45:13-16)

Thank you, Jesus, for the breathtaking light at the end of a very dark tunnel…

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Your Shepherd Was Also A Carpenter

tools

Sometimes the path through the darkest valley is the only way to get to the green pastures and quiet waters that He has waiting on the other side.

Have you ever noticed that cold water tastes so much better when you are hot and fatigued from hard work?

Green grass feels so much softer and more lush after experiencing a drought that has taken the life out of your lawn that left it brown and brittle.

This morning, I was texting with a client who is getting her house ready to go on the market.  I asked her how she was doing with the frustrating process of construction going on.

Here was her response:

“This part hasn’t been so fun.”

Construction never is.  Because constructing something beautiful often means de-constructing, of enduring a mess, an inconvenience.

A loss of something that WAS to gain something that is YET TO BE.

But she is trusting the process.  Believing that the men who are in the middle of that mess have a plan and the right tools to get the job done.

She has faith in the outcome and in their ability to make it happen.

That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been tough.  It just means she has the right perspective.

I told her to hang in there, that we were almost to the fun part of watching her home spring to new life.

Here’s what she said:

“Really :-)…But it has felt good to get through it as well.”

Hmmmmm.

She values the experience of the construction that she is still living in because it has given her new perspective.  She feels stronger for having gone through it.

She learned not to just wish it away, but to glean what she could from the experience with her eyes on the final product and her trust in those that would take her there.

She is going to appreciate her home in ways she has never experienced, because  of the changes that occurred during this difficult process.

Dark valleys do for our souls what construction is doing for this homeowner.

They prepare our weary hearts to truly experience the delectable blessings that await us when we get there.

They set us up for authentic gratitude and a better perspective.

We take less for granted, appreciate things more.

We recognize the gift of life.  Of God’s presence and faithfulness.

Like never before, we truly see God’s character for what it is.

His faithfulness has been tried and proven true.

Psalm 23 –

“(Because) the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside quiet waters,

He restores (brings back) my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.

(Therefore), even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (darkest valley),

I will fear no evil, for You are with me.

v. 4b – YOUR ROD AND YOUR STAFF, THEY COMFORT ME.

All He asks us to do through this valley is to walk next to Him as He navigates the way. To keep our eyes on Him when we are confused and frightened.

Our Shepherd, just like the construction workers in my client’s home, has the tools to get us through the valley and on to green pastures and quiet waters.

His “rod” of protection fights away the Enemy who threatens to attack us in this vulnerable place.

He carries His “staff” that serves as both a walking stick, symbolizing His presence and commitment to us on the journey, and  a means of drawing us back to His side if we get distracted and veer off the path in that dark valley.

We need to trust His plan, His method of “reconstruction” in our lives that includes His protection and direction.

(Coincidence that our Shepherd was also a Carpenter?)

Next week I will get to go and see my client’s home in all its new and improved glory.  It will be all prepped and ready to go from beautiful house to warm and inviting home.

Just like our hearts, emerging from the valley.

Green pastures and quiet waters are just around the bend….

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The Low Down On The Down Low

dark valley

(Because) the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside quiet waters.

He restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

v. 4a- “(Therefore), even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”

Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Wow.  That sounds ominous.  Terrifying.

Try to imagine what that image meant to David when he wrote it, writing from the perspective of a Shepherd and His sheep. 

Dark valleys meant danger.  Unknown enemies lurked.  Prowling animals that would mean the end of life for the sheep if they were alone.

Low places that left no clue as to what was on the other side of the massive walls of mountains all around.

Deep ravines in the blackest of nights.

Scary places.

Oh boy.

Darkness.  The unknown.  Enemies.  Low places.

Now “Valley of the Shadow of Death” is becoming a little more real.

Can’t we all relate?

Valley-type seasons of life, those life-changing circumstances, those deep griefs and disappointments.

Frightening, unfamiliar places that feel lonely, dark and dangerous.

We sense how vulnerable we are to outside forces.  

We feel small when we look at our position next to the mountains that surround us.

Fear is our natural response.  Just like sheep, we can’t navigate the direction out, we can’t fight off the enemies that lurk in this black place.

THIS is the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Threatening our hearts and souls and minds.

But we are not alone.

“(Because) the Lord is my Shepherd…I will fear no evil.  For YOU are with me.”

The Shepherd walks with the sheep through the valley.

Comforting.  

Protecting.  

Fighting off the enemies, real and imagined.

The sheep can feel peace even in the valley if they stay close to their Shepherd and trust His direction.

For some reason, the path through this Valley was exactly the way He wanted to walk with you and me to get to the next destination.

Why?  What good can come from such lonely, dangerous, dark places?

There is a trust that is built, an intimacy that occurs in that dark place.  We develop a new dependency on the Shepherd for our protection, comfort and direction.

He can see in the dark, even when we can’t.

 – Are you walking through a dark valley right now?

 – Are you consumed with fear, overcome with the height of the mountains around you?

 – Are you desperate to know why you had to walk this way?

 – Can you close your eyes in that dark place and lean into the presence and promise of the Good Shepherd who is walking with you?

 – Can you trust that He is by your side every step of the way, fighting off the enemies that surround you?

 – Can you believe that His all-seeing eyes penetrate this darkness and see into the bright future ahead of you that is still beyond your scope of vision?

Take Psalm 23:4a with you today and claim it as your own.

“(Because) the Lord is my Shepherd…I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me….”

Romans 8:31, 37-39 – If God is for us, who can be against us?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Deuteronomy 31:8 – Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.

 

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Our SOUL Purpose

mossy log

He brings back my soul, and leads me in the paths of truth because of your Name. Psalm 23:3

(Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

I really love this version of Psalm 23:3.

He brings back my soul.

Brings it back to life.

Back to health.

Back to the right place.

Back to where it belongs.

I picture those loving hands of His reaching out and carefully picking my soul up off the ground, wiping off the dirt and debris of a neglected treasure.

I see His fingers gently pulling out the thorns of life and circumstance and bandaging the bloody holes they left behind.

His palms swaddle this fragile, intimate core of me.

Transformation and healing are happening in the safety of His hands.

As a finishing touch to His healing work, He holds this delicate soul up to His lips and kisses it.

A seal of protection and promise.

He brings back my soul….

I am alive again, from the deepest inside out.

NOW my soul is ready for the end of verse 3 –

He brings back my soul, and leads me in the paths of truth because of your Name.

My revived soul is now ready to move forward.  To move on in the right path.

I don’t know all the twists and turns of this path.

I only know that the goal, the ultimate destination will be His heart.

Himself.

As I follow His lead, as I take the step that I know this day,

His truth will accompany me.  

The truth of who He is.  The truth of His presence and purpose in all of it.

The truth that if I fall on the path, if my soul gets tired or loses its way again,

– He will pick me back up,

 – restore my soul,

 – bring it back to health and focus, and

 – continue to lead me in the next part of the journey.

And why?

For HIS NAME’S SAKE.

He wants to shine through you and me.  Through your story and mine.

He wants to show that He is still who He says He is.  

Still the Miracle Maker.

The Great Physician.

The Good Shepherd.  

The Creator of all good things.

We are what He uses in this world to remind us that –

He is THE WAY.

THE TRUTH.

THE LIFE.

THE ANSWER.

And He wants to show us first by the miracle He does inside us.

Transformed, healed souls breathing in new air, fresh vitality, ready to follow the Leader on good paths of a hugely abundant life.  Souls eager to find each new step, every new opportunity and let the work He has done shine through what we do, how we think, how we interact with and serve others.

Showing and sharing Jesus – Our SOUL Purpose

Do you feel stuck?  

Is it because your soul needs refreshment, a “bringing back”?

Is your weary, broken soul not up for the journey ahead, or even the next step?

Jesus wants to massage life back into you.  To remove anything that is blocking its healing, preventing its thriving. 

Take your fatigued soul to Him.  Let Him breathe His restorative air into the deepest places of you.

Find your SOUL PURPOSE all over again. 

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Matthew 5:14-16 – You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

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Making Something Tired Into Something New

photo-63

(My new beautiful wall created out of my friend’s haggard old fence – glorious restoration! A daily reminder of Our Shepherd’s ability to transform and bring new life into something ugly, tired and old.)

(Because)The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads beside quiet waters….

Verse 3 – 

He restores my soul.

Let’s start with just this first part of the verse.

I think, for today, it will be more than enough.

I had a bit of an emotional fallout this past weekend.

Pent up stress, sadness and frustration let loose through lots of tears.

Too many sad stories over the past few weeks.  So many hurting mamas.  A  Disadaughter heading back to Cambodia. Disappointing news.  Dreams put on hold for now. Angst over not being in close proximity to an ailing loved one.

My heart seemed to tear open with all it was trying desperately to hold together.

(This happens occasionally when my soul hits the proverbial wall of emotional fatigue.)

Timing for verse three of Psalm 23 could not have been better.

“He restores my soul.”

It’s Monday morning.  How many of us could use a little restoration for this new week?

I know I need it more than air this morning.

And I know that my morning cup of liquid vitality is not going to cut it.

So I sit here with my bible open next to me, staring at this oh-so-familiar passage for the zillionth time, praying that today it will be like my very first reading.  

Fresh.

Vibrant.

Alive.

An Aha! for me.  For you.  Something that will once again give us meaning, hope, truth to hold on to when we’ve fallen apart.

Because that’s a promise, right?  That God’s word is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12)

And if that’s true, then its power in, and effect on our lives is active today.

Fresh.

Vibrant.

Alive.

Let’s look again at the verses we’ve already covered and work our way into Psalm 23:3.

“(Because)The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,”

So far, you and I are doing nothing in these verses.  God is doing everything.  He IS everything.  He is the shepherd who PROVIDES for YOU/ME, who MAKES YOU/ME LIE DOWN, who LEADS YOU/ME.

I feel a little better already, don’t you?

When we trust Jesus with our lives, we trust His ability to act on our behalf.  We allow ourselves to rest in the comfort of His provision, care and direction.

That relaxed, open, vulnerable position gets us ready for the next great active thing He will do for us in verse three:

HE RESTORES MY SOUL.

Wow.  Just wow.

He doesn’t just lead us to the green pastures of His presence and the cool waters of His provision.

 He does something there beyond the mental relief and the physical nurturing.

He RESTORES OUR SOULS.

He goes beyond our obvious needs of the body and mind and goes to that deepest part of us to replenish what life drains us of on a daily basis.

I can’t even fathom that.

Seriously.

That is love.

To go into those broken, sometimes ugly crevices of the most intimate part of us and do work with His holy, perfect hands.

To take the remains of our torn and weary souls and massage them back to life.

By definition, restoring is:

: to give back (someone or something that was lost or taken) : to return (someone or something)

: to put or bring (something) back into existence or use

     : to return (something) to an earlier or original condition by repairing it, cleaning it, etc. (Merriam-Webster)

He does it all.

He gives back life.  

He returns us to a vibrant state.

 He refreshes us for purpose and use.  

He repairs and cleans.

I just love that so much.

But I need it even more.

Jesus, restore our souls.  Pretty, pretty please.

Sand away the damage that others or we, ourselves, have created.  Rub away the tension of circumstances we cannot control.  Bring back our shine so we can show Your brilliance.

Revive us from the inside out while we rest in the promise of Your presence and devoted attention and love.  May the quiet waters of Your provision and Your person soak deep into the recesses of all of the parts you are reworking, reshaping, restoring.

That thought alone is enough for today.

The rest of verse three will just have to wait.

Let’s take in the beauty and profound poignancy of these four words:

“He restores my soul.”

Let the healing begin….

Psalm 51:12 – Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Let’s give Him time to do that today and the thanks He deserves when we see Him do just what He promises.

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Lying In The Grass And Splashing In The Water

green-grass-water-relax-wallpaper

I woke this morning to yet another message that at 3:00 a.m. one more sweet mama felt the anguish of empty arms when her toddler drew his last breath.

It is too much.  

This world and all it does to us is too hard sometimes.  So backwards.  So unfair.  So painful.

I don’t feel like writing this morning.

 My heart is heavy and achy. 

More questions than answers are running through my head.

I tried to send a note to this mama and there were no words.  As if the choke of emotion in my throat has also paralyzed my mind, my typing fingers.

Everything is spinning and nothing makes sense and I find myself dizzy with all of it.

Like there is no safe place to land.

And then my Good Shepherd reminds me:

There IS a safe place to land.

Psalm 23  – v. 2 – He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters…

He knows.

He knows that this world is way too much for us to handle sometimes.

That sometimes all we are able to do is to lie down.  

Our resources for taking one more step have run dry and we are so, so tired.

Because He knows us, knows the burden of our load and the angst of our hearts, He brings us to a place of rest and assurance.

He draws us to the lush green pastures of His presence.  

Soft and solid.  Safe and sound.

(Psalm 34:18 – The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.)

He is with us, His brokenhearted, confused sheep, lying with us in the green grass of His comforting presence.

Our hearts begin to feel their beat again.

But there’s more.

 He leads me beside quiet waters…

Refreshment.  Cool hydration for a parched heart.

Still waters that contrast the raging storm around us.

Can you feel it?

Kneel on the softness of that green pasture and dip the hands of your soul into that quiet water of His promises.  Splash it on your weary face.  Wade in it.

Then find yourself floating on the buoyancy of His goodness. 

The world around us may be chaotic, but we will stay afloat on these quiet waters.  

Circumstance may threaten to take us down, but we are safe on the solid foundation of green pastures.

Exodus 33:14 comes to mind – “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

That is a promise.

We are not alone in this world, not left abandoned with the heartache of this planet.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

And for this day and all it holds for you, for me, it is enough….He is enough….

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There Is Nothing I Want More

shepherd1

(Here we are!  Day one of our “one verse at a time” look at Psalm 23.  Our journey through a passage of peace, promise and the presence of God Himself.  Thanks for walking with me. Walks with friends are so much better. Wonder what we’ll find?)

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

That’s the version of Psalm 23:1 that many of us memorized when we were young.

And all I can think is, “The Lord IS my Shepherd, BUT I STILL WANT.”

I want lots of things.

– I want peace of mind.

– I want to live closer to my kids.

– I want all of my long distance friends and family to live close enough to grab a cup of coffee and bare our souls.

– I want a cabin.

– I want to lose 10 pounds.

And at this very moment I want a venti skinny caramel macchiato.  Really badly.

We’re only on day one, and already I’m struggling with my own reality’s contrast to this famous verse.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

Hmmmmmmm….

Maybe my idea of want and God’s idea of want are two different things.

So I’m doing a little research.

Here is what I discover about the word ‘want’.

The archaic meaning, the original Hebrew word that David used in this Psalm, was חָסֵר (ḥaser), which means “to have need, be lacking, and to fail.”

Okay.  Well, that changes things.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not ‘have need, be lacking, fail.’ “

(interesting that these three things are what I fear most… “need, lacking, failure”)

In my mind, I want to tack another word on the front of the verse that makes it click into place for me.

“BECAUSE the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not ‘have need, be lacking, fail.'”

David was a shepherd for part of his career.  He knew all that he personally did for his sheep.

He made sure that they were “lacking for nothing”, that they were never “wanting” for anything they needed.

He protected them.  He made sure they were fed.  He kept track of them.  Tended to them when they were hurt. Picked them up and carried them when they fell.

Essentially gave his life for them by putting himself in their little sheep world, fighting off their enemies.

He knew each of them and went after any that went astray.

His job was to take care of His sheep.

Sound like Anyone else we know? :-)

David’s analogy of the Lord being his Shepherd was personal.  Intimate.  

David faced many enemies in his lifetime.  He knew more grief and difficulty than we will ever experience.

But he knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that he was safe within the care of his Shepherd.  That, regardless of his circumstances, he would not be lacking anything he needed, physically, spiritually, emotionally.

He was in the presence of his Everything.  His Protector.  Provider.  Healer.  Friend.

“BECAUSE the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not ‘have need, be lacking, fail.'”

Every. Single. Day.

Whether you are having the best day or the most horrific day of your life, your Shepherd is always there.

 – Protecting

 – Nourishing

 – Providing

 – Tending to

 – Loving

 – Fighting for

YOU.

ME.

And when I step back and see Jesus as David did, even with my distorted, modern day definition of the word ‘want’, I can honestly say,

There is nothing I WANT more.

The presence of my very good, very attentive, very wise, very loving Shepherd is enough.

I shall not have need, be lacking, fail.

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD.

TRUTH.

JESUS, please help us grasp this today.  Soak our minds with this tiny little verse that is filled with such meaning and immense hope.

Remind us.  Constantly.  We will forget. That YOU REALLY ARE OUR SHEPHERD.  THE SUPPLIER OF EVERY NEED. THE UNDERSTANDER OF EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE.  THE COMPANION IN EVERY DIFFICULTY.  THE PROTECTOR OF OUR MINDS, OUR HEARTS, OUR BODIES, OUR SOULS.

Help us to remind each other.

Show us how to recognize that OUR ONLY TRUE NEED IS YOU, WHERE EVERYTHING WE NEED IS FOUND THROUGH YOUR PERSON, YOUR PROVISION.

**Bonus verse – Philippians 4:19 – And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

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Your Personal Invitation To Something Better

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If you know me at all, you know that everything I do is done quickly.

 – This shows up in my speedy decisions. (The words impulsive and instantly gratifying are probably more accurate.)

– The pace at which I walk. (Stroll is not in my vocabulary.)

– The rate at which I perform tasks. (I can’t relax until it’s all done.)

– The length of my writing projects. (A novel is not in my near future.)

– The extent of my attention span. (If I don’t do it right now, I won’t remember/will be distracted later.)

– The lack of patience in limbo. (I want answers and I want them now!)

And let’s face it.  Life itself is running at break neck speed.

Am I right?

It seems that most of us have forgotten how to breathe slowly.  Rarely do we savor our food, let alone savor life.

The pace we keep leaves us panting, not refreshed.

Much of it is the culture we live in.  The world is a frenetic place and “the need for speed” applies to almost everything we do and experience.

There are things that we can’t control.

But some of it is self-inflicted.

We (and I am speaking to myself here, as I am the worst offender) have to be deliberate in our efforts to breathe deeply and lean into moments of retreat and recuperation.

So, in an attempt to be proactive in this area, I am going to take another look at Psalm 23.

But I’m going to do the opposite of what I would normally do.

Instead of racing through the entire Psalm in one sitting, I’m going to take one little verse at a time and let it pour over my mind and heart fully before moving on to the next.

Sloooooooooooooowwwwwwwwly….

I’d love for you to take this relaxed walk with me.

Simple.

No pressure.

Just a few little words to savor each day.

A small treat to chew on and discover the true flavor of its goodness.

It might take us five days.  Maybe fifteen.

It really doesn’t matter, as long as it takes us a few steps closer to peace, tranquility and the resting trust that Jesus so longs for us to experience in this crazy world.

Doesn’t that sound good?

You want to start today, don’t you? :-)

So do I.

I want to run with it!

(Of course, I do.)

But let’s be intentional about moving slowly starting NOW.

Let’s just use today to pray about this sweet journey through Psalm 23.

Let’s ask God to somehow transform our hearts and minds through the miraculous power and truth of His word. 

What do you have for us, Jesus?

Where can you take us that we’ve never been before?

Who will You show Yourself to be at this relaxed pace?

I can hardly wait!

But I will….

Psalm 130:5 – I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.

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How Odd. How God.

This past Wednesday marked 19 years since our son, Mitchell, was born.

Fifteen days later, Jesus tenderly lifted our baby from his hospital bed and carried him into eternity.

Some days it feels like only yesterday when a part of my heart left my being.

But this story isn’t about me.

It’s about what God can do with the pain that comes through tragedy, struggle or deep disappointment.

It’s about Jesus understanding our grief, experiencing it with us, and then healing it to a point where the ugly duckling of sorrow becomes a beautiful swan of purpose.

Jesus uses our pain (if we allow Him) to work as a salve for other hurting souls.

Two days ago, on Mitchell’s birthday, I went to a job site to preview an upcoming project.  I expected it to go as simply and straight forward as usual.

God had other plans.

After everyone else left, I had the client all to myself.  I could see pain in her eyes.  I knew that the sale of her home was tearing at her heart.

But I had no idea what was really going on inside her.

I asked her, “How are you holding up?  This must be very emotional for you.”

The floodgates opened and the tears poured.

And so did the stories.

Four years ago, this precious mama lost her teenage son.  

There was nothing to do but hug and hold her.

There was little to be said that she hadn’t heard a million times before.

Except one thing.

That I understood.

That I, too, knew the pain of the backwards reality of outliving your child.

And while our pain came from different circumstances, we had something in common.

The loss of a child.

Her teary eyes lit up a bit when she realized that she wasn’t alone.

That she wasn’t the only mother on the planet who had to face living after a part of her had died.

She let her guard down and shared things I am certain she had never said aloud before, because she had never met someone who knew what she was talking about.

The flailing emotions.

The excruciating steps that come with grief.

The desire to crawl into a hole and stay there.

The impulse to build a wall of protection around what remains of your heart.

To isolate.

To just let the pain have its way and turn you numb to life.

To wake up sad each morning knowing that all of this was not just a bad dream.

She wasn’t alone.

Wasn’t crazy.

Everything she has experienced emotionally falls within the “normal” range for grieving mothers.

A little more light came into her eyes.

But it wasn’t enough for us to bond through grief. For her to know that what she was feeling was normal.

I needed to let her know that purpose and hope and meaning were in her future.

“God has some very good plans for you,”

I promised her.

And because we are part of the same “club”, because of 19 years of experiencing that truth for myself, and because I was standing right there in front of her, breathing and whole….

She somehow believed me.

“I’ve been looking for that for a really, really long time,” she said through eyes that now looked a little less lost.

She wasn’t alone.

Over the next few weeks, we will spending a good amount of time together, working side by side.

I would love the prayers and support, once again, of all of you who, with me, believe that God has something beautiful and surprising up His sleeve for this sweet woman.

HOW ODD that this would happen on Mitchell’s birthday, right?

HOW GOD, that it did.

 – Do you have pain that holds a greater purpose for this world?

 – Do you have a story that God can use to help others?

 – Have you experienced something that will allow you to help others feel less alone?

I would love to hear from you and celebrate with you how God has taken your ugly duckling and grown it into a breathtaking swan.

People need you.  They need your story.  And God has every intention of using it if you’ll let Him.

2 Corinthians 1:4 – He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

Romans 5:3-5 – More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

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When You Know That Nagging Feeling Is More Than Indigestion

photo-61That persistent “voice” in your ear, that feeling that you need to do something, but you’re not sure why?

It’s worth paying attention to.

Because sometimes it’s a SACRED BECKONING.

The other day I came across a great garage sale.  It was a new neighbor who had just moved into a beautiful house down the street.

It was obvious that she had some great things, and because I am always on the lookout for potential staging stuff, I stopped to take a look.

True to form, shopping in a driveway turned into touring her beautiful new place and a sweet conversation about the dreams she had for it.  The future she saw here.

I left with only a small portion of the things I ended up buying because I was walking.  I told her I would come back later to retrieve the rest of the items.

We said our goodbyes.

Her hug was a little longer than you would normally get from a stranger and I noted a sadness in her eyes that I couldn’t quite place.  Nothing in our conversation had given me a clue as to what it might be.

Two weeks passed, and with traveling and kids coming into town, I didn’t get back to her house to pick up what I’d left.

I came to the conclusion that she probably got rid of it all, tired of waiting for me to take it off her hands.

But on Saturday, I felt this strong sense of obligation that I needed to check in and let her know I hadn’t left her hanging. It was just the right thing to do, and I couldn’t put it off any longer.

Little did I know….

Jesus was prompting.

So on the way home from running errands in my paint covered overalls, I showed up at her door.

Before I even made it to the door, I was greeted on the porch by her son and a friend who were both dressed formally, which seemed a little strange for weekend attire.

I apologized for the fact that I looked like a preschool art project.  Her son smiled and assured me it wasn’t a problem.

As he opened the door to let me in, he informed me that they had all just been at a funeral.

All the cars in the driveway were starting to make sense.

Never have I felt such a sense of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  That my messy appearance and the lame reason that I had stopped by were completely inappropriate in this setting.

Mom!” he called up the stairs.  People were staring.  I didn’t belong here, in any sense of the word. Everything about me standing in the doorway, clueless and disheveled, seemed disrespectful.

I wanted to slither back out the door and disappear.

But she was already on her way down the stairs to greet me.  I apologized before she even had a chance to explain the who and what of the situation.

And then I saw them.

Her eyes.  

Her eyes were so very sad.

All I could do was hug her and whisper in her ear, “I don’t know what’s happened but I am so sorry.  I’ll come back later.”

The reason I’d come seemed so insignificant and pointless.

Everything believed that the person who had died was a distant relative, an elderly person who had lived a good, long, and celebrated life.

I was not prepared for what she would tell me next.

“My son died.”

My heart stopped.  An old familiar grief took hold of my soul at that moment.

My mind wouldn’t let me believe it.

Like I couldn’t let this be true for her.

This young man, 28-years-old, her sweet son with all of life in front of him, had battled cancer in various forms for the past four years. His youthful body had endured more than most of us will ever experience in a normal life span.

Aching because there was really nothing I could do, I just held her tight. She held me right back.

Tears poured.

I asked her about her beautiful boy. His name. His story.

Because hurting mamas want to talk about their babies, the parts of their souls that have just left them to experience eternity.

Smiles came through tears as she shared his name. Her pride in who he was. All the plans he’d had in store.

She told of his high school sweetheart, sitting in the next room, who had walked the journey of cancer with him and stayed close to his side every step of the way.

On the Sunday prior, these two had said their vows and become husband and wife.

Two days later his new bride became a widow.

Precious mama shared stories of last days and moments spent with family and friends.  Bedside conversations.  The kind you have when time is almost up and you know it.  Those things you say because you know you will never get another chance.

Everyone had gotten the time they needed to say goodbye.

It was a peaceful sendoff.

But this mommy was shaking with the pain that overtakes you when you lose a child.  That excruciating sense of, “how will I possibly face tomorrow and why would I want to?”

I showed up at her door right at the time when her body was finally feeling the emotional and physical fatigue that comes after all of the arrangements and preparations have been made. After the public celebration of life has come to a close and you begin to experience the grief that sets in after everyone goes back to normal life,

knowing that your life will never be normal again.

I showed up in the most inappropriate of ways.  Completely unaware.  Wrong place, wrong time. 

But God knew better.

He knew that if I hadn’t gone back to pick up my things, I never would have known that this mamma, just a block down the street, was hurting in indescribable ways.

That she needed someone who understood her pain.  

Even someone in paint clothes.

He knew that it WAS appropriate for me to be there.  

That it was not only the RIGHT PLACE, but also the RIGHT TIME.

He was COMPLETELY AWARE, even though I was not.

As I was turning to leave to let her get back to her friends and family, she stopped me.

“I actually thought of you this week,” she said.

Funny, since we had only met once prior, at her garage sale.

I was thinking that you would be the person to ask to help me create a special memory tribute for my son.  Something creative and meaningful and beautiful?”

Her smile was asking through tear-rimmed eyes.

All I came to do was pick up what I’d bought.

But I left with so much more than I’d paid for.

An opportunity to love.  

A fresh chance to be a bit of salve to a hurting heart.

A new friend I could accompany on the journey down a road she has never travelled.

So, next time you feel that familiar tap on your shoulder, pay attention.

Even if it doesn’t seem like the right time or place.  Even if you’re not dressed for the job, or don’t have the right words.

Just respond.

God knows.  

He will fill in the details.

You’ll discover things you never would have imagined.  He will use you in ways you would never have thought possible.

And without a doubt, you will find out more about the love and wisdom of Jesus.  Your faith will plant a little deeper and your trust for future steps will come a little easier….

James 2:17 –  Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

2 Timothy 1:7 – For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

John 10:27 – My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 

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